Jax Transition Budget Review: Sports and Entertainment, and Special Events

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The final budget review of the day was sort of brutal.

4:33: Sports and Entertainment was bundled into Economic Development; was spun out in 2014. Four positions in the department total.

4:34: Salaries have gone up $74,000. Dave Herrell was hired at a rate that was the lowest in the salary range. About $125,000  number went up as the budget process went through.

4:37: Herrell says they’ve “done a pretty good job” managing expenses, but that there are “fluctuations” based on what is successfully recruited.

4:39: Increased events are coming in, including the SEC women’s basketball tournament, which requires “event contributions.”

4:40: Ashton Hudson does not know why the city subsidizes these events. Herrell argues for a “public funding component” because other cities are competition, and “funding support” helps them “attack that” with a “public component.” Mentions Danny Wimmer as an example, the promoter who brought Slayer here earlier this year.

4:41: Mousa doesn’t know why we need “this group” when we’ve got SMG. “It’s almost like we’ve got everyone chasing the same dollar.” Weinstein, an old hand, says “we’re very different than the way we started.”

4:43: Herrell says that “if we’re going to compete as a city, we need a public interface” to accommodate “a multitude of stakeholders.”

4:44: Weinstein wants to know who decides whom to target. In just the last day, he’s added a lot to these meetings, asking tough questions in a way that suggests he might be an asset to the Curry administration.

4:46: “We want to program our city and facilities.” Shuman mentions events that occur outside of city venues.

4:52: A discussion of vehicle replacement for a SUV.

4:56: A discussion of the Florida-Georgia game. Weinstein wants to know why this game is on this list. $1.6 million for temporary bleachers.

4:57: A question about $300,000  travel costs and lodging for the two teams.

4:58: An enumeration of the various Special Events. Tenisha Landry, Chief of Special Events, explains what the Mayor’s Initiatives are. Mousa: “Are they just what the mayor wants to do?” Events like the Hispanic Business Expo, Jax Happenings, and the Mayor’s Trailblazers, and so on.

5:01: With a fund balance of $1.9 million, Shuman wonders why Special Events is asking for money. “There’s money there that can be used for events,” she says. Mousa adds, “or that can be swept by us.” Money should have been retrieved via Year End Recapture.

5:05: Mousa wants to know what can be done with this money; Shuman asserts that we can use it for events. Mousa strongly recommends them to go back and look at the budget. Or else, “we will do it for you.”

5:07: On to SMG.

5:09: Bill McConnell from SMG starts. “From the command that we have over the budget, we’re ready to be essentially flat and prepared to manage that way.”

5:10: A total budget of $8.5 million for EverBank Field. Weinstein wants to know the impact of the London game on revenue. The average game expense went up $40,000.

5:13: Weinstein says the expenses and revenue projections were impacted by one lost game in the schedule.

5:14: Event revenues down $800,000 . Country Music Superfest brought in $2.3 million last year. The 2015 budget expected a drop, but not to the degree it played out, said McConnell. Weinstein points out the overlap between the SMG and Special Events budget. McConnell counters that to get these events, “you have to take risks” in booking acts, et al.

5:16: Mousa on the revenue and expense split: “It’s pieced up pretty nicely. Piece it all up and nobody knows what you’re doing.”

5:18: Mousa continues hammering, while responses include phrases like “seed money” and “sponsorship contribution” and “Downtown thrives.”

5:19: “We’re trying to focus… so we know what this thing really costs us. We just need to get the handle on the bookkeeping.” – Mousa.

5:20: Memorial Arena faces losses due to lost NCAA games and six Garth Brooks concerts that won’t happen this next fiscal year. The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament limits availability for “more profitable events.”

5:24: “$700,000  should show on the books.” – Mousa.

5:25: Weinstein: “We did so much to consolidate for efficiencies, and now we’re all separated again. Interesting.”

5:26: Discussion of a new lease for the Jacksonville Suns. The new owner wants a 25-30 year lease after the transaction is complete in September. Herrell has been holding those discussions; Mousa wants to take that function over.

5:29: Herrell discusses “opportunity cost” between the choice of holding a basketball tournament and a Chris Brown concert. The basketball tourney is better for branding and community benefit; the Chris Brown concert is more directly profitable for the arena.

5:34: The NFL is requiring clubs to incur more security expense. This is going to be an expense the city absorbs, apparently, such as magnetometers.

5:36: On to capital needs. Sports complex venues and non-sports complex venues have been starved of resources; major improvements are needed. The T-U Center, the Prime Osborn Center, and the Ritz Theater have no fund associated with them.

5:42: Over a five-year period, the facility capital needs adds up to $72.6 million.

5:48: An extended discussion of the Bed Tax and other revenue streams. Mousa is frustrated with how the allocation of funds has changed from when the deals were negotiated years back. “There was money set aside for capital improvements” that now goes to operational costs.

5:56: A heated exchange between Angela Boyer and Mousa.

5:58: That’s a wrap. This crew may be back for a second round of this.









A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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